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Santa Barbara Politics, Media & Culture

Friday, March 23, 2007

Background v. Content: Serious Consequences

I received a copy of this letter that will likely, inevitably not be published on the editorial pages -- although it might have been published in the Los Angeles Times if it happened to them (despite their recent issues, you have to give them kudos for their transparency versus what we see around the union issue at the News-Press -- despite TKA's obfuscation of the issue).

Our citizen stringer questions whether inexperienced reporters can tell the difference between background, off-the-record and what actually goes in a newspaper. I do to. What is written affects peoples lives. Read amongst yourselves.
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c/o Santa Barbara News-Press
715 Anacapa St .
Santa Barbara , CA 93101

RE: Article of Sunday, March 18, 2007
“Experts: Reconnecting vital for those feeling ‘lost’” by Leana Orsua

To Whom It May Concern:

Having read Leana Orsua’s sensationalistic portrayal of a recent alleged suicide attempt, I am offended and disappointed to have associated myself, and by extension The Glendon Association , with the Santa Barbara News-Press. This piece featured inflammatory and inaccurate information about a situation that demanded the utmost sensitivity.

I wish to clarify the content of our interview which was misrepresented in her article. I never characterized this event as “a cry for help,” despite the lead of Ms. Orsua’s article. Nor did I claim it was “really tragic” for kids with parents in conflict—that wording was fabricated by the author to dramatize my position. I did not say that those who attempt suicide are experiencing a “disconnect from [their lives],” I explained they experience a temporary disconnect from themselves; the difference is crucial—when they reconnect with themselves, not necessarily with their lives, is when they are ok.

I specifically urged Ms. Orsua not to print anything that could cause increased stress or pain to the family. Instead I advocated she focus on mechanisms for preventing suicide, in light of the recent event. Unfortunately, it seems she took this article to print with little regard for the information I actually presented to her. When she wrote that the victim’s parents were in the middle of a divorce and that the victim “may also be a victim of sexual abuse,” she was apparently using speculation to assign causes to a situation that is undoubtedly more complex. I never said anything like that to her. The author concludes these points with a statement by me regarding the ‘tragedy’ of parental conflict, which is then repeated, out of context, more prominently beneath the article;

anyone seeing this could conclude the parents were to blame for the event, which was neither the intent of my interview nor my stated position. This quote was taken completely out of context and gave the false implication I had confirmed these facts to be significant in this case. What I offered did not pertain to this situation; I had no knowledge of this case at the time of our interview, and as such, to offer an assessment would have been impossible, not to mention unethical.

I have already received multiple reactions from community members critical of this article. I call upon the News-Press to issue this correction immediately.

The Center for Disease Control, in their Guidelines for Reporting on Suicide, strictly guards against sensationalism, specifically in publishing assumed causes or photographs of the site of an incident. We have repeatedly provided the News-Press with these guidelines when they covered stories regarding suicide, and in the past the News-Press adhered to them. These guidelines can be found at: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00031539.htm.
I strongly advise you consult this guide before you publish anything more on this topic.

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11 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, who is the editor that let this pass without questions being asked?

3/23/2007 10:37 PM  
Anonymous Al Bacara said...

Could even more pain and suffering be added to the families of this alleged suicide attempt ? It is a complex situation that requires more care than headlines. With this corrected information, it is indeed a very 'different' story. One that was missed [or not?], by the reporter AND the editor. I guess if Marty B couldn't be blamed, this story meant zero to Travis. I liked it better when LO wrote to Craig about the talents of a local newsman. NP, just reprint wire service articles, and worry about the Union Ca-Bal from the 'bunker'.

3/24/2007 12:58 AM  
Anonymous edit-this! said...

And who is the editor who decided they should cover the NLRB hearing, but then not report on the ruling?

3/24/2007 4:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Edit-this!, you should know by now that it's only news if the NP says it is.

3/24/2007 8:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does this mean the family has sufficient legal recourse against the NP and writer? dd

3/24/2007 8:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How Wendy can live with herself after this is beyond me. She is no doubt a VERY irresponsible person and would do the area a service by closing the NP and perhaps relocating to an area where she she can no longer harm her fellow man. If Wendy had any sense of responsibility she would answer these questions herself and not thought a mouth piece. In my opinion she has lost her mind and her way in life and has let carpetbaggers take her over. Can she prove otherwise?

3/24/2007 9:03 AM  
Anonymous harping said...

The N-P states in their "letters guidelines" that submissions need to be 250 words max.; unfortunately this letter was almost double the max., which gives them a good excuse not to print it. Of course even if one follows the N-P guidelines & your letter is well-written there's no guarantee it will be published, but why give them a valid reason to reject it? Follow their rules & then follow up--I think it's worth the effort when you have something important to say.

3/24/2007 11:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Leana Orsua will be the very last reporter left at the N-P. She is all the paper deserves.

Here's to a not-so-distant future in which the Daily Sound is the ONLY daily paper in Santa Barbara. :-D

3/24/2007 7:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When was the last time you saw any letter printed by the N-P that was critical of its institutional stance(s)? I don't care if you're Shakespeare arisen from the dead and you follow the published guidelines, you're not going to get published by the N-P if you criticize what they've been doing to their reporters and ex-reporters and to the community, and unlike other newspapers, they won't be apologizing for anything they may have mistakenly written, either.
And Liar Travis' editorial spite and venom is on the house, thank you very much.

3/25/2007 6:45 AM  
Anonymous harping said...

Anon. 6:45 a.m., I totally agree re: "I don't care if you're Shakespeare arisen from the dead and you follow the published guidelines, you're not going to get published by the N-P if you criticize what they've been doing to their reporters and ex-reporters and to the community," but that's not what this particular letter was about. By following their guidelines & then following up, I've been able to get a correction letter published in the N-P regarding another topic, so I know it can be done--that's why I suggested it. Obviously this does not apply to any topic remotely relating to the News-Mess.

3/25/2007 11:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It does relate slightly. Under Jerry Roberts, the News-Press did not report on suicides in a major way unless there was something particularly newsworthy about them (the death of a veteran suffering from PTSD comes to mind, also the star basketball player who leapt from Cold Springs). That was a longstanding policy that came out of respect for the families.

3/26/2007 9:28 AM  

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